As people who work with pigs every day and whose livelihoods depend on healthy hogs, America’s pork producers are committed to treating their animals humanely and with compassion. As users of the land and water, they are committed to being good environmental stewards; and as citizens, they are committed to giving back to their communities. What producers haven’t done is blow their own horns about those actions.
That modesty hasn’t worked to the industry’s advantage. While U.S. pork producers have for decades supplied Americans and the world with the highest quality, safest, most nutritious and affordable pork, they are increasingly coming under attack from activists. The anti-animal-agriculture propaganda is being considered by a largely uninformed media and even by customers, who are increasingly interested in food safety, animal well-being, the environment and public health.
With less than 2 percent of the current population involved in agriculture, most people do not understand today’s food production. As a result, they are more susceptible to influence by groups whose agenda includes putting severe restrictions on pork production practices and foisting burdensome environmental regulations on farms. Indeed, much of the public has been led to believe that today’s modern production operations, which have been dubbed “factory farms,” are only interested in producing a product at low cost.
In an effort to counter the attacks by animal agriculture’s antagonists, such as the Humane Society of the United States and the Waterkeepers Alliance, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board have created a new initiative — We Care. The effort is targeted to instill in the public that the U.S. pork industry is producing pork responsibly. NPPC and NPB are promoting pork producers’ long-standing commitment to animal well-being and environmental stewardship and to continuous improvement in animal care, handling and transportation.
Doing nothing in response to the pork industry’s critics is no longer an option. Left unchallenged, the attacks can lead and have led to onerous regulations and legislation that affect producers’ ability to compete in the global economy and, ultimately, to make a profit.
The industry has already seen the consequences, the latest being passage of Proposition 2 in California. That measure, like similar ones approved by voters in Arizona (2006) and in Florida (2004), bans the use of gestation-sow stalls. Those ballot initiatives passed largely because of proponents’ misinformation and the public’s ignorance about production practices.
There are indications that HSUS is targeting more states for a gestation-sow stall ban. HSUS president Wayne Pacelle has vowed to take his organization’s anti-animal-agriculture agenda to Congress, where more lawmakers are making noise about the need for more oversight and stiffer laws related to the environment, food safety and food-animal production.
“We Care is the U.S. pork industry’s effort to let the public know that pork producers ‘do the right thing’ when it comes to caring for their animals, producing safe food, protecting the environment and public health and contributing to their communities,” says R.C. Hunt, a producer from Wilson, N.C., and chairman of NPPC’s We Care responsible pork advisory committee. “It’s a way to prove that producers produce pork responsibly and a way to oppose efforts to dictate and restrict production practices.”
A key component of the We Care initiative is the “Ethical Principles for Pork Producers.”
Endorsed by NPPC and NPB membership, the principles identify producers’ commitment. Producers are asked to sign an “Ethical Principals” document.
They’re also asked to participate in the industry’s Truckers Quality Assurance and the Pork Quality Assurance Plus programs. PQA-Plus educates and trains producers and employees in practices that promote food safety and animal well-being. The first step is certification in the “10 Best Management Practices.” Next is an on-farm assessment that ensures proper on-farm practices and identifies areas for improvement. TQA educates those who move and transport hogs in proper care and handling methods. Several packing companies, including Hormel Foods and Hatfield Quality Meats, are supporting the We Care initiative and require their hog suppliers to be certified in PQA-Plus and TQA.
The We Care initiative also involves coordinating issues-related dialogue; educating federal and state legislators about industry practices, programs and public-policy priorities; developing pork industry communication tools; and conducting research on social responsibility.
NPPC and NPB are confident that with all pork producers participating, the We Care initiative will help build public trust in the pork industry and its products. In this information age it’s not enough just to do the right thing; you have to tell everyone about it.
Ethical Principles for U.S. Pork Producers
Preamble: As a U.S. pork producer, I recognize my obligation to build and maintain the trust of customers and the public in my products and practices. To promote confidence in what I do and how I do it, I affirm my obligation to:
Produce safe food.
- Use management practices consistent with producing safe food.
- Manage the herd’s health to produce safe food.
- Manage technology to produce safe food.
Protect and promote animal well-being.
- Provide feed, water and an environment that promotes the animal’s well-being.
- Provide proper care, handling and transportation for pigs at each life stage.
- Protect pig health and provide appropriate treatment, including veterinary care, when needed.
- Use approved practices to euthanize, in a timely manner, sick or injured pigs that fail to respond to care and treatment.
Safeguard natural resources.
- Manage manure as a valuable resource and use it in a manner that safeguards air and water quality.
- Manage air emissions from production facilities to minimize the impact on neighbors and the community.
- Manage operations to protect the quality of natural resources.
Ensure practices that protect public health.
- Use management practices consistent with producing safe food.
- Manage the use of animal-health products to protect public health.
- Manage manure and air quality to protect public health.
Provide a work environment that is safe and consistent with other ethical standards.
- • Provide a work environment that promotes employees’ health and safety.
- • Educate employees on the Ethical Principles for U.S. Pork Producers and prepare them to meet obligations consistent with these standards.
- • Provide a work environment where employees are treated fairly and with respect.
Contribute to a better quality of life in the community.
- Recognize that being welcomed and appreciated by a community is a privilege that must be earned and maintained.
- Acknowledge that production practices can affect the trust a community has in pork production and operations.
- Operate in a manner that protects the environment and public health.
- Play an active role in helping build a strong community.
- Acknowledge community concerns and address them in an honest and sincere manner.